This is Not How I Thought I Would Feel (Quick Thoughts on Being Officially Autistic)

Feelings are a tricky business. You think you know what they’re going to do in a given situation,  but they can be a little unpredictable. Like the weather for your soul.

I had the final part of my autism assessment on Saturday. There’s a questionnaire bit I had to do with a different professional in June/July and they had said that I would need some third party input before I got my diagnosis. When I started the interview part (a few weeks back because I talk too much so needed am extra appointment!) they said again that they would need someone who knew me well to talk to them. The Dude was volunteered as a good option.

Fast forward to the end of the questions of the interview part and the clinician lady says “I would like to give you your result today. Could you log back in after 10 minutes?” I was all “but you need to speak to The Dude”. Apparently she had enough to go on.

Exactly 10 minutes later I logged back in. (All of this was done on video, which I actually find easier because there’s less to distract me.) And I was told that yes I was definitely autistic. And that’s the only label they give now (I knew that). And something about a follow-up appointment.

I thought I would be happy. The way Not So Little Person is about it. There was a certain relief that I wasn’t just making up excuses and justifications for poor behaviour. Trepidation at the thought of reflecting on a life that has not been quite as black and white as it goes in my head. Happiness that I finally had an answer. “Ha! I told you so”- ness at a wider world that had spent so long dismissing me. But not the “just happy” that I had expected.

Of course, then the fact that the clinician could make the diagnosis without a third party input started messing with my head. I had made it into my 40s without anyone working out I was autistic (including a stint studying developmental psychology at a university where they had a grant to do autism research!) But the quick process of “well, yes you are” felt a bit like “duh, obviously Rox” and my brain started shouting something about thinking it wasn’t actually that obvious at all.

That is a rocky path to go down. It’s a version of internalised ableism (prejudice against disabled peeps) that says I’m better off if I can pass as not-autistic. (To be clear, trying to pass is one of the things that damaged my mental health so badly over the years.) Why should it be better for it to be complicated and messy and hard to tell if I am autistic? It’s not, really.

Processing that was not as neat as the above paragraph implies (nor do I think that I’m done working through it). And now I am onto the next phase. I’m giving myself permission to live a home life that feels comfortable, even if it does look slightly different. This means daft things like using a pasta bowl for most of my meals because they just work better at containing the food.

I’m also working through the reality that my past is scattered with people who criticised and judged me for something that is perfectly valid, and intrinsic to who I am. They were never ever going to be satisfied with me because I would never ever have been able to measure up to their standards. In some cases that helps to finally let go, but in others the hypocrisy of it all makes me very, very angry.

All this to say to anyone going through a similar experience- you can’t tell how you are going to feel. All you can do, at least initially, is find a safe way to feel and express the feelings. And remember that you are valued and worthy and loved just the way you are. The world needs autistic people. We think differently.

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